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Octavio Paz was born on March 31, 1914, in Mexico City. His mother, Josephina Lozano, was of Spanish extraction, while the family of his father, Octavio, was both Mexican and Indian. Paz was a precocious youngster, influenced by his politically active grandfather, a journalist and writer, whose twelve-thousand-volume library provided the necessary material for his intellectual development. Paz’s father was a lawyer who joined Emiliano Zapata during the 1910 Mexican Revolution and represented him in America. After secondary school, Paz studied from 1932 to 1937 at the National University of Mexico. In 1931, he founded Barandal, the first of his many journals. He also began to publish his poetry, and in 1933, Luna silvestre, his first collection, appeared; in the same year, he also founded his second journal, Cuadernos del valle de Mexico. In 1937, Paz attended a conference in Spain; after the conference, he decided to remain there for a year. His allegiance was, naturally, to the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War. In 1938, he passed through Paris, where he met Alejo Carpentier and Robert Desnos; Paz’s firsthand encounter with the Surrealists was particularly decisive, and their profound influence on his subsequent work cannot be overestimated.

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In 1938, Paz returned to Mexico, where he worked with Spanish political refugees, wrote on political matters for El popular, and founded Taller. A fourth journal, El hijo pródigo, followed in 1943. For these literary periodicals, he translated many French, German, and English works. Receipt of a Guggenheim Fellowship enabled him to spend the 1944-1945 academic year in the United States studying poetry. It was in the United States that he encountered the writings of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and E. E. Cummings, poets whose impact on Paz’s work equaled that of the Surrealists some years before. When he ran out of money in New York in 1946, he decided to join the Mexican diplomatic service; he was sent to Paris, where he met Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jules Supervielle, and many other writers. During the next twenty-three years, his diplomatic work allowed him to spend extended periods in many countries, including Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and India. Asia opened a new world to Paz, and after his first trip in 1952, his writings begin to display many Asian characteristics. He then returned to Mexico and spent the period from 1953 to 1958 writing in his usual prolific fashion.

In 1962, Paz was appointed Mexico’s ambassador to India, and it was there that he met Marie-José Tramini, whom he married in 1964; they had one daughter. Although Paz’s political interests had waned over the years, he resigned his ambassadorship in 1968 in protest against the Mexican government’s overreaction to the student riots. During the 1970-1971 academic year, Paz was the Simón Bolívar Professor of Latin American Studies at Cambridge University, and during the following academic year, he held the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard. He also taught at the universities of Texas, Pittsburgh, and California, San Diego. In 1971, he founded yet another journal, Plural, a political and literary review, which lasted until 1976, when he founded his last literary-cultural periodical, Vuelta. Early in 1982, King Juan Carlos of Spain presented Paz with the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, and some months later, he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature at the University of Oklahoma. The Nobel Prize in Literature followed in 1990. He died in Mexico City on April 19, 1998.


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Octavio Paz (pahz) was born in Mexico City, Mexico, on March 31, 1914, the son of Octavio Paz, a mestizo, and Josephina Lozano, a woman of Spanish descent. His father, a lawyer and journalist who defended the...

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